House Bill (HB) 4123 of the 88th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature resolved the conflict between Texas and federal law, as it pertains to the authority for state agencies to obtain and utilize the Department of Public Safety (DPS) criminal history information for volunteer background checks.
Within the last few years, school districts were being cited during their DPS audits for using the secure DPS site to run volunteer name-based background checks. As a result of the recent legislation, Texas Education Code (TEC) § 22.0835 (f) has been amended to allow school districts, charter schools, and shared services arrangements to obtain volunteer criminal history information from DPS, as well as any law enforcement or criminal justice agency.
School districts, open-enrollment charter schools, and shared services arrangements shall obtain from DPS, and may obtain from any other law enforcement or criminal justice agency or a private entity that is a consumer reporting agency, all criminal history record information that relates to a volunteer. The following are the exceptions to this requirement:
- The volunteer is the parent, guardian, or grandparent of a child who is enrolled in the district or school for which the person volunteers or is applying to volunteer;
- The volunteer will be accompanied by a school district employee while on a school campus; or
- The volunteer is volunteering for a single event on the school campus.
Although a district, charter school, or shared services arrangement is not required to review the criminal history of persons covered by these exceptions, it may do so if it wishes. Many districts find volunteer background checks are more manageable when applying the same process to all volunteers.
Districts should be reminded that a third-party vendor background check may supplement the DPS name-based check but does not comply as the sole source of criminal history information for volunteers. If using a third-party vendor, your district should include the DPS name-based criminal background check step in the process. The HRX article Using Third-Party Vendors for Background Checks also provides helpful information.
Check out the HR Library topic Criminal History Checks (member login required )and the TASB School Law eSource document Criminal History Reviews of District Employees and Volunteers. Additional information can be found on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) webpage Requirements for Certified Educators and Non-Certified Employees.
Karen Dooley joined HR Services in 2016. She provides oversight to a team of consultants providing staffing services, HR reviews, and other projects. She provides training and assists school districts with their HR-related needs. Dooley is a seasoned administrator with more than 17 years of HR experience in Central Texas districts as a coordinator, director, and assistant superintendent. She also worked as an assistant principal, counselor, and teacher, and holds a superintendent certificate.
Dooley received her master’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University.
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